Countries Take Final Step to Put Global Mercury Agreement Into Force Thu, Mar 10, 2016

Minamata Convention to Protect Millions Worldwide from Health Threats of Mercury

Photo Credit: Danilo Cedrone / FAO

Amman, 10 March 2016 - Over 550 governments representatives, stakeholders and experts gathered at the Dead Sea in Jordan today to put the final touches to one of the most important legally-binding international agreements - the Minamata Convention on Mercury - which has the potential to end a serious threat to the health of millions of people.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury - named after the Japanese city where thousands of people were poisoned by mercury-tainted industrial water- provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries that involve mercury. These range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal fired power sectors.

The Convention was signed in 2013 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). So far, 23 countries have ratified it out of the 50 required for its entry into force.

Speaking in Jordan, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw issued a strong call for countries to accelerate the entry into force and implementation of the Convention.

"Today, the world desperately needs to get mercury under control and the week ahead provides that opportunity to delegates gathered at the Dead Sea shores," he said. "By taking the final step to put the mercury convention into force, they can deliver meaningful impact on the ground and solve a lethal and often-invisible issue."

Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious impacts on human health, including brain and neurological damage, especially among the young. Others include damage to kidneys and the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment, alongside many other well-documented problems.

The metal, when released from industry and other man-made sources, can circulate in the environment for centuries. This means that it is likely to be several years or decades before reductions in mercury emissions have a demonstrable effect on levels in nature and the food chain.

Decisive action to limit the release of mercury into the environment is a public health priority that can also bring multiple benefits for the environment, productivity increases, poverty reduction, security and economic growth of countries, ultimately enabling their sustainable development.

A positive outcome of the meeting in Jordan would send a strong message to world governments, gearing up for the Second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in May, that increased attention to the linkages between environment and health is crucial to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in all its dimensions.

The meeting will run through Tuesday.

About UNEA

In May, hundreds of key decision makers, businesses and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and civil society will gather in Nairobi for UNEA-2 at the United Nations Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi.

The assembly will be one of the first major meetings since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolutions passed at UNEA-2 will set the stage for early action on implementing the 2030 Agenda, and drive the world towards a better, more just future.

For more information go to: www.mercuryconvention.org/ or contact:

Iyad Abumoghli, Regional Director and Representative for the UNEP Regional Office for West Asia, +962-77-77-22-726

Cynthia Khoury, National Information Officer, United Nations Information Centre, +961-76-88 85 82, khouryc@un.org

Michal Szymanski, UNEP News & Media, +254 715 876 185, unepnewsdesk@unep.org

 
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